The publication of the blog post below has brought forth a lively and spirited discussion on social media. Further information on the fate of 220 High Street follows:
Social media has ignited and the internet has exploded with discussion regarding 220 High Street. In writing a blog I set forth a typical reality that exists. This has been misconstrued as surrender yet nothing is further from the HPA reality.
Let me tell you what is, has and will happen:
HPA was never contacted by the City requesting input as to how this historic area and building could be or should be developed in is drive to create DoNo. Until this latest news of its possible demise, we had been informed that the City was looking for a reuse of the building.
For some time I have been speaking publicly regarding the desire of property owners to ignore historic preservation and not following published guidelines. We have made tremendous inroads with the City staff and the Historic Preservation Commission as they now insist that property owners consult with HPA first. Honestly it is the City which, as a major property holder, needs to lead this change in philosophy.
The next step for 220 High Street is that the request to demolish will come before the Historic Preservation Commission which we attend monthly. In no uncertain terms we will oppose and object to the permit being granted. So, the property is not in imminent danger from a procedural consideration and many roadblocks remain at our disposal.
I have met with the City stating that we oppose demolition. In its haste the City did not make the preservation of 220 High Street a priority. We seek consideration to propose a design for High Street which would include the preservation of the property. We have been heard and will monitor.
Our position has been made, clearly recognized and acknowledged with an understanding that our opposition is unyielding. The task before us is the prevention of a demolition of 220 High Street. Our mission speaks clearly to HPA’s role as an advocate for preservation and I am exerting that.
Blog Post Jan 15 2015
The issue cycle of social media seems to be a nanosecond. And this cycle is filled with the request for demolition, by the City, of the Italianate property located at 220 High Street. At issue seems to be how this could happen. Vacant and abandoned for greater than a decade the property has been stripped – gutted to be exact – of all internal historic fabric and now sits by itself, virtually the only property along the block, as a shell. The Preservation Alliance was contacted recently by the City, its owner of many years, to discuss options. The facts are simple, no viable project or plan to reuse the property was presented to the City. Long ago talk of moving the fireman’s Credit Union into the building did not materialize. Consideration was made to moving the building which elicited bids in excess of $ 1 million dollars. However a far greater impact on the property is the DoNo development surrounding a new ball field. As development plans for the area north of I-84 evolved since the summer a development proposal, involving multiple properties along High, Chapel and Main Streets was presented to the City. In effect the development demands that 220 High be demolished. The DoNo master plan and the specific recommendation to the Planning & Zoning Committee were presented by the City on January 8 to approve variances allowing for the redevelopment. Petitions were granted.
Developers by definition will always lead with a mantra that historic buildings are too expensive to reuse. Therefore demolition is required if a development is to go forward. Always the argument holding historic preservation hostage. Two elements blunt the argument: 1. Preservation of an historic structure is demanded within a master plan for development articulated by the City 2. Financial incentives are made available to encourage historic preservation priorities to protect our assets. Hartford talks of the importance of the historic fabric of the City but when push comes to shove demolition is often given first consideration. A reality which must change.
In a perfect world 220 High Street should have been designed into the master plan of development. Our challenge is to make historic preservation matter. In this case the desire for preservation was outdone by the priority of the creation of DoNo. As a city a profound understanding that preserving the historic fabric is a priority must enter the public discourse.
We would appreciate your thoughtful comments on how to effect such a self-awareness.